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Ask TransLink: Mary Riemer, transit planner!

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From April 15 to May 10, you can Ask TransLink! We’re spotlighting one TransLink staff member every week and inviting you to ask them questions about their work. Find out all about the series.

Mary Riemer, TransLink transit planner!

Mary Riemer, TransLink transit planner!

We’re super excited to welcome transit planner Mary Riemer to the blog!

Mary will be kindly taking time to answer all your questions this week, all the way until Friday, May 10, 2013 at noon. And she’ll do a special 1 hour Facebook live chat on Thursday, May 9, at 2 p.m.!

We asked Mary a couple of questions about her work to kick it off: here we go!

Hi Mary! What kind of work do you do for TransLink?

Hello! I am an Assistant Transit Planner in TransLink’s Service Planning team. I’ve been with the agency for just over a year, supporting both the Area Transit Planning and Network Management programs. Service Planning works with our operating companies to make sure the transit network is developing in a way that will help meet the region’s long-term goals and objectives. This involves continuous analysis of how people use the various services available to them and based on those findings, making adjustments to improve both the efficiency and usefulness of the network.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a lot of exciting projects! The Northeast Sector Area Transit Plan has just kicked off and will establish a long-term vision for the transit network in the communities of Anmore, Belcarra, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody, as well as identify a range of near-term transit priorities to begin the realization of that vision.

Service Optimization
is another part of what we do in Service Planning. These projects aim to put service where it is needed most and better match supply and demand, helping TransLink generate revenues to support efficient transit service across the region. One of the most important aspects of Service Optimization is consultation with the public. In the fall, we received invaluable feedback on proposed changes that helped us understand potential impacts and, in several cases, refine the projects to help mitigate these.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I love my job! One of the best parts of my work is talking to the public about their thoughts and ideas. So I’m excited to answer your questions about Service Planning and hear what you love about transit in Metro Vancouver too.

Thanks Mary!

All right everyone – now it’s your turn! Submit your questions in the comments below, and we’ll get Mary to answer them for you until Friday, May 10, 2013 at noon!


67 Comments

  • By Xerxes, May 6, 2013 @ 10:06 am

    What kind of educational background do you have?

  • By shane, May 6, 2013 @ 10:06 am

    hi there i have two questions i live in langley and take the # 502 bus to to surrey ctrl stn alot and that bus is always busy are you going to add any more buses to that route anytime soon and or put artic buses also (60 foot buses) and is there any chance the # 364 route can run bit later on weekends like until 9pm or so right now the last on leaves sdale on the weekends is at 7.30pm

  • By Jordan, May 6, 2013 @ 10:26 am

    Hi! I am a grad student working on an SFU Urban Studies degree, and I am very interested in transportation planning. What software tools, and skills, do you suggest that I develop to eventually work in transit planning as well? Thanks for doing this Q&A.

  • By Kurt, May 6, 2013 @ 10:26 am

    My question is how the faregate distribution was decided. I use Brentwood on a regular basis and was stunned to see that there are only 3 gates. How on earth was that deemed sufficient for that station? Even without the gates there people are fighting past each other to get in and out when trains arrive.

    Thanks!
    Kurt

  • By Eric Doherty, May 6, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    I use the #20 bus regularly, which has a severe problem with buses not being evenly spaced. Does your group consider headway based operations as a potential service optimization measure?

  • By Sheila, May 6, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

    I am curious why, between Alma & Granville, the #9 and the #14 always come at the same time?
    It would be much more helpful to have them spaced. It is very disappointing to miss them both when the traffic light is against me as I try to cross Broadway at Vine or Yew.

  • By Allen, May 6, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

    Thanks to the Buzzer blog for organizing this and Mary for answering our questions!

    What are some of the operational patterns that have been discussed when the Evergreen Line opens in 2016?

    Has TransLink looked into adding more limited stop services? Select #49 Metrotown trips in the peak hours operate as #49 Metrotown Express that bypass 54th Ave between Kerr and Tyne. I feel like many riders would welcome the addition or conversion of existing trips into ‘Express’ trips like this except they only stop at major intersections that offer connections to other bus routes.

    Is there a method as to how route numbers are determined? I noticed #9 is on Broadway (9th Avenue), #41 on 41st Ave, #49 on 49th Ave, etc for example.

    Is there any news on the Burnaby Mountain Gondola project after it was suspended last year?

  • By Sheba, May 6, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    How far along are the plans for the Millennium Line extension to Canada Line and then along Broadway to UBC? I kept hearing that it was going to travel entirely along Broadway – until I came across this, which shows it traveling along Great Northern Way and then sharply dropping down to the Broadway/City Hall station (instead of the Olympic Village station). See page 7

    http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20130424/documents/ptec7.pdf

    How much say do the cities have in regards to where bus routes are located/relocated? If the road system supports it, how long would it take to implement large changes to the bus network?

    Also are some numbers not used for route numbers because of superstition? I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be a single route that ends in 13.

  • By SS, May 6, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

    I’m also wondering about how route numbers are determined for new routes. I know historically there is probably a set of rules that can be observed by existing routes, but it seems that TransLink has not followed them lately:

    - By geographical region (ie. 10x for New West, 11x for S Burnaby, 13x for N Burnaby, 14x for Burnaby Mountain and Port Moody, 15x for SW Coquitlam, 16x for Poco and Northern Coquitlam; for North Shore, the routes were numbered from 21x, 22x, 23x, 24x, 25x from East to West; for SoF, it was 31x, 32x, 33x from West to East, then 34x near Strawberry Hill and 35x in South Surrey and White Rock) – But then new routes like #150, #177, #179, #189, #364, #375, #388 isn’t really follow this anymore.

    - By type of service – the x9x routes seems to be reserved for peak-only express route, but the #595, #791 are all-day; the x0x seems now going more toward inter-regional trunk routes, but the #555 just seems completely random (unless trying to match the former #333)?

    - By former route – for this route, the new Aldergrove route proposed for the service optimization should’ve been the #511, but it is #503 instead.

    And look like TransLink is even abandoning the community shuttle route numbering system introduced 10 years ago. #C8 and #C9 seems to be the last shuttle number used, whereas the #256, #388, #609 and the proposed #227, #251, #252 all uses 3-digit numbering even though they are completely shuttle.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 6, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    Hi Xerxes! Here’s Mary’s response to your question:

    What kind of educational background do you have?

    I earned a Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree from the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo, where I elected to author an undergraduate thesis examining rapid transit initiatives in mid-size cities and the factors that determine their success or failure. Currently, I am completing the thesis component of my Master of Arts degree in the School of Planning at Waterloo, focusing on software and technology innovation for urban planning. I would also say that a significant part of my education came from the experience I gained working as a Student Planner in the transportation and development industries while completing school.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 6, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

    Hi Shane, here’s Mary’s response to your question!

    hi there i have two questions i live in langley and take the # 502 bus to to surrey ctrl stn alot and that bus is always busy are you going to add any more buses to that route anytime soon and or put artic buses also (60 foot buses) and is there any chance the # 364 route can run bit later on weekends like until 9pm or so right now the last on leaves sdale on the weekends is at 7.30pm

    Hello Shane, thanks for the question! We recently put a proposal together for the #502 as part of the 2013 Bus Service Optimization program. In order to address crowding, we proposed the introduction of a #503 express service to Langley and Aldergrove, truncating the current #502 local service at Langley Centre.

    The idea is that operating as two distinct services will mean that Aldergrove passengers currently passed-up by buses full of people only travelling between Surrey Central and Langley Centre will be able to take the #503, and people travelling locally between Surrey Central and Langley Centre will be able to take the #502 without being passed up by commuters travelling to destinations east of Langley. You can take a look at the design here. We consulted with the public in fall of 2012 and received positive feedback and support for the change. We are anticipating implementation for early 2014.

    Extending hours of operation is considered an expansion of service. At this time, there is no expansion of bus service planned in the region unless specifically mentioned in the 2013 Base Plan. However, in the meantime, you can make your trip by taking the #316 and connecting to the #502 at Surrey Central which runs until 11:30pm on Saturday. Depending exactly on where you live, you may have even more travel options! While they may not provide a direct service, part of how TransLink plans the transit network involves making connections in order to serve diverse travel needs efficiently.

    It can be challenging when we have to make tradeoffs to provide efficient and productive transit service. But at the end of the day, we can provide more and better service across the region if the network is designed in an efficient way.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 6, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

    Hi Jordan, here’s Mary’s answer to your question!

    Hi! I am a grad student working on an SFU Urban Studies degree, and I am very interested in transportation planning. What software tools, and skills, do you suggest that I develop to eventually work in transit planning as well? Thanks for doing this Q&A.

    Hi Jordan! Great to hear about your interest in transportation planning. A master’s degree is a definite asset for this career path. As for software skills, having a solid grasp of GIS is always a bonus, as well as strong skills in graphic software such as Illustrator and InDesign. A big part of what we do involves the ability to analyze and work with different data sets, so having advanced critical thinking and analytical skills along with the ability to use Excel at a highly functional level will also help!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 6, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

    Hi Eric! Here’s Mary’s response to your question.

    I use the #20 bus regularly, which has a severe problem with buses not being evenly spaced. Does your group consider headway based operations as a potential service optimization measure?

    Hi Eric! The problem you are referring to is known as “bus bunching” and can occur when a service has 2 buses arriving at the same stop at the same time. There are a variety of factors that can cause this kind of problem. Much like driving a car, bus trips are often subject to many external factors, such as traffic light pattern or construction delays, large differences in boarding times caused by uneven passenger loads or unpredictable traffic patterns. Bus bunching is more common on routes that operate at a high frequency, such as the #20, where the next bus is only 5 minutes behind.

    TransLink works closely with our operating companies to manage headway in two different ways. We do on-demand headway management when a special event, such as an accident, is affecting running times on the route. Our operating companies also address chronic bus bunching incidents by continuously monitoring services and adjusting timetables to better reflect conditions on an on-going basis. This is most likely how we would address bus bunching on the #20 in the near term. Hope that answers your question!

  • By Kelly, May 6, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

    My question is on about late night service. Are there any plans in the future to extend the hours of service and adding new routes in the area? Many people need 24 hours of transit service.

  • By ???, May 6, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

    I’ve been studying the #20 for decades and have seen improvements. The old service ran from Marpole to Harrison, via downtown. Severing the Marpole segment has greatly improved reliability.

    In recent years, it’s been explained that the service runs reliably from Pacific Centre until Chinatown. From there the service is pure chaos. There was talk in the past that there was traffic light priority measures for buses…. I’m wondering if this was ever implemented.

    There was also talk about 10yrs during a Vancouver Transit review about about having the #20 only run between Hastings @ Commercial to Harrison return. I like this idea because Hastings is already heavily served and there is also the Expo line for riders interested in downtown. Instead, they short-turned buses at 54th (and 41st when the service got behind). South Van residents got very unreliable service when this occurred. And that leads us to today.

    Thankfully the modern NextBus map identifies bunching on my Blackberry and I use alternative routes (Canada Line) to get home quickly.

  • By Eugene Wong, May 7, 2013 @ 2:21 am

    @ SS

    #364 and #388 are properly numbered, because significant amount of their travel is on 64 Ave and 88 Ave, respectively.

    As for the #C?? routes, please change the route numbers to something more meaningful.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 7, 2013 @ 8:25 am

    Hi Sheila! Here’s Mary’s response to your question.

    I am curious why, between Alma & Granville, the #9 and the #14 always come at the same time?
    It would be much more helpful to have them spaced. It is very disappointing to miss them both when the traffic light is against me as I try to cross Broadway at Vine or Yew.

    Hi Sheila. I can relate to how missing your bus can be frustrating! While the #9 and the #14 are scheduled at different times, they are subject to a multitude of external forces such as unpredictable traffic patterns, resulting in bus bunching! (arriving at the stop at the same time – I touch on this a bit more in my answer to Eric about the #20 ) In this case, it is largely due to the fact that they are both frequent services, serving a high demand corridor with destination anchors at either end and high turnover along the route. The good news is that these are characteristics of an effective and productive service, and we can work with our operating company to address any chronic bus bunching between the #9 and #14 to make them work even more efficiently together!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 7, 2013 @ 8:28 am

    Hi Sheba – here’s Mary’s response to your questions.

    How far along are the plans for the Millennium Line extension to Canada Line and then along Broadway to UBC? I kept hearing that it was going to travel entirely along Broadway – until I came across this, which shows it traveling along Great Northern Way and then sharply dropping down to the Broadway/City Hall station (instead of the Olympic Village station). See page 7

    http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20130424/documents/ptec7.pdf

    How much say do the cities have in regards to where bus routes are located/relocated? If the road system supports it, how long would it take to implement large changes to the bus network?

    Also are some numbers not used for route numbers because of superstition? I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be a single route that ends in 13.

    Hi Sheba! TransLink worked with the Government of BC, in partnership with the City of Vancouver, UBC, the University Endowment Lands, the Musqueam Indian Band and Metro Vancouver to complete the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study. This detailed technical study used a Multiple Account Evaluation approach to quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate a range of factors to identify the benefits and impacts of different scenarios. After several rounds of public consultation and incorporating what we heard into our recommendations, TransLink released our findings, but no preferred option. As stated in our findings, the Broadway corridor is one of the busiest in the region and TransLink is aware that demand for transit is consistently high and that rapid transit is required. Three options were shortlisted with a range of benefits and costs. You can check them out, along with the detailed study here. The preferred option for rapid transit, along with implementation timing and funding, will ultimately be decided by the region as part of the Regional Transportation Strategy.
    When it comes to bus routes, we work closely with our partners at every municipality in the region to identify a long term vision for their communities and refine near-term projects. Land use choices made by the municipalities also affect transit decisions. The road system is only one part of deciding where a bus route should go. When designing a service, we look to serve areas of strong demand with anchors at both ends – this helps to make a service as productive and efficient as possible. We also try to design services that are direct, simple and consistent in order to maintain speed and reliability along the entire route. Avoiding duplication of services helps to reduce competition between routes and better matches service levels to demand. Having a balanced load in each direction and even distribution of ridership throughout the day are characteristics of a superstar service! You can learn more about how we design services in our Managing the Transit Network primer.

    I hope this helped to answer your questions – I’m going to touch on the bus numbering in the next answer!

  • By Liz, May 7, 2013 @ 9:00 am

    Ive been told that faresavers will not be sold soon, and any remaining faresaver vouchers will be invalid after the end of Aug this year…is this true?

  • By Stefan, May 7, 2013 @ 11:06 am

    Ooh, route numbers!

    To Sheba’s question, there have been a couple of routes numbered 13, but they’re the oddity rather than the rule.

    When the #14 Hastings was a streetcar service (paired with the #14 Dunbar and #16 West Point Grey, from the mid 30s to late 40s), #13 streetcars were short-turn cars, operating between Hastings at Renfrew and Broadway at Alma. In 1949, the #14 was truncated Downtown, and from then on, #13 cars just ran between Hastings at Renfrew and Downtown.

    Then during Expo 86, there was the 13 Cambie/Downtown trolleybus, which ran between Cambie at 50th (where there was a trolleybus turnaround, short of the #15 terminus at 65th) and Victory Square.

    Those are the only X13 route numbers I’m aware of.

    As for routes numbered according to the streets they operate on, these have included in recent years:

    4 (+44 and 84, arguably) on Fourth
    9 (+99 and N9) on Broadway
    10 on Tenth (only until 2003, sadly)
    25 on King Edward
    33 on 33rd Ave
    41 on 41st Ave
    49 on 49th Ave
    101 on 1st Street (debatable…only a few blocks)
    102 on 2nd Street in New West (only until the late 80s)
    106 on 6th Street
    108 on 8th Avenue in New West (until replaced Community Shuttle)
    112 on 12th Street
    229 on 29th Street in North Van
    312 on 112th Street
    316 on 116th Street
    364 on 64th Avenue
    388 on 88th Avenue
    401 (+411, 491) on No 1 Road
    402 (+492) on No 2 Road
    403 on No 3 Road
    404 on No 4 Road
    405 on No 5 Road

  • By Stefan, May 7, 2013 @ 11:11 am

    And last but not least, there was also the 109 Brentwood/Boundary Loop (formerly 9 Broadway Extension), a shuttle taking Broadway passengers to/from Brentwood Mall until the 99 B-Line was phased in.

  • By SS, May 7, 2013 @ 11:45 am

    @Stefan

    There was also the #413 shopper shuttle from Richmond to New West via Westminster Highway.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 7, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    Hi Kurt – here’s Mary’s answer to your question!

    My question is how the faregate distribution was decided. I use Brentwood on a regular basis and was stunned to see that there are only 3 gates. How on earth was that deemed sufficient for that station? Even without the gates there people are fighting past each other to get in and out when trains arrive.

    Hi Kurt! Great question. Each station was individually considered by engineering consultants who observed traffic flow patterns. This data was combined with automatic passenger counters as well as line projections to determine the requirements of each station. This information was compared to the speed of the gate throughput in order to determine the number of gates required at each station. I assure you all of our infrastructure and facilities are designed to meet stringent safety guidelines including the safe flow of our customers inside the stations.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 7, 2013 @ 11:59 am

    Hi SS, here’s Mary’s answer to your questions!

    I’m also wondering about how route numbers are determined for new routes. [truncated for length]

    This is an interesting question. Historically, streetcars in Vancouver were named for the corridor or street that they served. As they were replaced by trolley busses, they maintained these service numbers. Across the region, most services are numbered for the destinations that they serve. We also try not to reuse numbers for new routes that have been used in the past. As for community shuttle route naming, TransLink has recognized that the vehicle type is not necessarily tied to the level of service provided, and therefore are moving away from the #CX naming.

    And to Sheba – there are no superstitious route numbering guidelines, but that is a great observation!

  • By Stefan, May 7, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

    SS:

    Ah, yes! I even rode on the 413 once…

    It only operated, what, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays? Once per day each way, three days a week.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 7, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    Hey Kelly, here’s Mary’s response to your question.

    My question is on about late night service. Are there any plans in the future to extend the hours of service and adding new routes in the area? Many people need 24 hours of transit service.

    Hi Kelly! We receive requests for late night service quite often. While SkyTrain is a driverless technology, the infrastructure it relies on such as tracks, stations and vehicles require consistent maintenance. This routine maintenance is performed while SkyTrain is not operating to ensure the safety of our employees and customers. While this may not meet the needs of all individuals, providing 24 hour transit service across our entire network would come at a very high cost to resources and would significantly detract from TransLink’s ability to operate the same network it does today. In order to mitigate this, TransLink offers a NightBus network that provides basic transit to regional centres between 2:00 am and 5:00 am Monday through Sunday. However, due to much lower demand, the NightBus network is not as extensive or frequent as the daytime bus service.

    Jhen here to add: you can also check out the Buzzer’s post on overnight SkyTrain maintenance for more!

  • By Xerxes, May 7, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

    Do you follow any planning or transit blogs?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 7, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

    Allen! Here’s Mary’s response to your questions :)

    Hi Allen!

    I’d like to thank the Buzzer blog too for this opportunity to answer all of your questions, it’s been great! To answer yours, details concerning the operational patterns of the Evergreen Line are still being confirmed, however we do know that trains will run directly from Lafarge Lake-Douglas to VCC-Clark Station.

    Through our planning processes, TransLink continuously reviews and adjusts current transit services and plans for future improvements throughout the region. Ridership information is gathered using automated passenger counters on board our vehicles and informs service planning decision-making. This includes the decision to turn a route like the #49 into a B-Line service. While the #49 experiences very high demand, an Express or B-Line service requires significant investment of resources in order to maintain frequency and reliability.

    At this time, there is no expansion of bus service planned in the region unless specifically outlined in the 2013 Base Plan. As expansion resources are not currently available, service changes over the coming year will be focused on optimization. Service optimization refers to the process of reallocating transit resources from areas of low-productivity to where demand is higher. There may be an opportunity to invest in the #49 through this program!

    As for the Burnaby Mountain Gondola project, there are no updates. It remains a project with a strong business case and may be considered as a candidate in future expansion plans. However, funding for expansion is not currently available and consultation with the community is still needed in order to address some issues that arose earlier in the project.

    I hope I answered your questions, and check out my response to SS about route numbering!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 7, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

    Hi Liz – here is Mary’s response to your question!

    Ive been told that faresavers will not be sold soon, and any remaining faresaver vouchers will be invalid after the end of Aug this year…is this true?

    Hi Liz!

    FareSavers as we know them will be phased out during the months following the Compass card launch. After we have given our customers enough time to use their old tickets and get a Compass card, the transition period will end, and, subject to TransLink policy, anyone who has purchased FareSavers that they haven’t used by this time will be able to exchange them for stored value on their Compass card. While we need to discontinue FareSavers because their format is incompatible with the new Compass system, discounted fares will still be available for those using Compass cards.

    In short, you have nothing to worry about this August and we will give you plenty of notice before the official Compass system launch!

  • By Awesome cheese, May 7, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

    Hi.

    How do you decide on buses to use for new routes and the Frequency Transit Network routes?

    How do you decide on the frequency on the Skytrsin, the SeaBus and the bus routes?

    Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions.

  • By Joe, May 7, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

    Why are the 407 and 430 scheduled to go down Bridgeport at the same time? It’s not a matter of traffic, if you look on the schedules on the poles they’re scheduled to be less than 3 minutes apart. Seems rather inefficient, and it’s very inconvienent. I’d love if this could be changed in the near future so that there’s 15 minute service down Bridgeport instead of 30 minute.

  • By Ric, May 7, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

    Here are some questions for you Mary:

    1) Why can’t the 410 operate on articulated buses during rush hour?
    2) How does the GPS system pick up when to announce the stops and what stop to announce?
    3) Why is it not possible to put all express routes on Highway coaches?
    4) Why aren’t there power outlets on the highway coaches to provide passengers to charge laptops and cell phones?

  • By ???, May 8, 2013 @ 10:06 am

    I’m not a big fan of spending money in power outlets on buses where the average ride is 15 to 30 minutes. You can charge your device at home. If your device battery is bad, get a new battery or get a new device with a better battery. You can also go to NCIX and get yourself external battery for your device that you can put in your pocket/purse. They range from $10 to $90 depending on the amperage you need.

  • By Joe, May 8, 2013 @ 10:21 am

    ???, the 351 is 60 minutes assuming no traffic, and the 601 is 50 minutes if there’s no traffic jams. Other routes that feature express coaches include the 311 (30 minutes), the 301 (50 minutes), and the 555 (20 minutes). Even the peak period 602/3/4 which skips Ladner Exchange takes 40 minutes from end to end. I’d certainly say costs should be explored for power outlets on highway coaches to see if it’s feasible without costing too much.

  • By Ric, May 8, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    ???, not sure if you are aware of this but down in the US there are power outlets on every single transit bus and train. Back in my home town in Asia there are also power outlets on every single transit bus and MTR train.

    In the lower mainland the WCE (Westcoast Express) there are power outlets on the trains and power outlets are also provided on all Greyhound and Charter buses in the lower mainland.

  • By Kelly, May 8, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

    My next question is Translink will be able to get wifi soon? I know that some cities are now introducing wifi. If so, where abouts are they goina put them?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 8, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

    Hi Xerxes, here’s Mary’s answer to your second question.

    Do you follow any planning or transit blogs?

    Hi again Xerxes,

    I stay up to date on transit and planning issues by reading publications by the Canadian Institute of Planners, the Canadian Urban Institute, and Alternatives Journal (put out by the University of Waterloo!) I also like to keep up to date through twitter and try to visit blog’s like Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit whenever I get the chance.

  • By Allen, May 8, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

    Ric: I have a hard time believing what you said (about every single bus in the US having electrical outlets) is accurate. New Flyer Industries is the largest bus manufacturer in the North America and AFAIK they do not offer electrical outlets.

  • By Ric, May 8, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

    Allen, the buses in the US did not ship with electrical outlets, they were put in by the operating company once the buses arrived from the manufacture.

  • By Alison, May 8, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

    Hi. I am thinking of buying a house that is situated pretty close to a skytrain line. Are you able to provide any information on levels of electromagnetic fields produced by the lines? Thanks!

  • By Gary, May 9, 2013 @ 12:49 am

    I have several questions for Mary. 1. I ride route 41 almost everyday. The crowding is getting worse. Will service optimization result in more service? Why are the trolley wires not being extended to UBC so that higher utilization of the trolley fleet can occur? In the 2005 Vancouver Area Transit Plan, the idea was to run the 43 all day as a new route 91 B-Line. What has happened to this plan? Does the plan make sense given that many, many riders on the 41 board and get off at non-43 stops? Local riders on the 41 need better service. 2. What are TransLink’s short term plans for the Broadway corridor? It could be years until a subway is built. Will more bus service be added? Can the 9 be converted to an articulated trolley to increase capacity? Something has to be done.

  • By ???, May 9, 2013 @ 9:00 am

    @Alison: In full honesty, I recommend you go pick up an EMF meter like this one. http://www.amazon.com/Trifield-100XE-EMF-Meter/dp/B00050WQ1G/ref=sr_1_1

    The meters are not expensive and you can see for yourself the impact to how close you are to high voltage locations. You should also try the meters next to an operating refrigerator, car dash, CFL light, stove, wifi router, laptop keyboard, cellphone, or your bedside LED clock. The results may be surprising.

  • By ???, May 9, 2013 @ 9:11 am

    Like installing electrical outlets, I’m not a fan of transit wifi either… If people want internet, get yourself a data plan on your phone or device. Data plans costs less than $1 a day. What use is wifi when you exit the bus or waiting at a bus stop? I would rather see the money spent on more buses or transit improvements along Broadway. BTW… did you know the Canada Line tunnel offers data service for many phones. You don’t need wifi in the tunnel for the internet.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 9, 2013 @ 9:17 am

    Hi Awesome Cheese (great name btw :) Here is Mary’s response to your questions.

    How do you decide on buses to use for new routes and the Frequency Transit Network routes?

    How do you decide on the frequency on the Skytrsin, the SeaBus and the bus routes?

    Hey Awesome Cheese,

    We decide on vehicle types for new services by analyzing a variety of different factors including population and employment density along the route, as well as ridership projections, and compare those to similar routes in the network. We continue to monitor the ridership of the service and make adjustments as needed while the new route matures! When it comes to the Frequent Transit Network (FTN), it is not vehicle specific. The FTN is designed around frequency of service and hours of operation, with vehicle type assigned based on ridership.

    Hope that helps to clarify things! :)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 9, 2013 @ 9:17 am

    Hi Joe! Mary has this response for your question.

    Why are the 407 and 430 scheduled to go down Bridgeport at the same time? It’s not a matter of traffic, if you look on the schedules on the poles they’re scheduled to be less than 3 minutes apart. Seems rather inefficient, and it’s very inconvienent. I’d love if this could be changed in the near future so that there’s 15 minute service down Bridgeport instead of 30 minute.

    Hi Joe!

    In some cases it is possible to “blend headways” of two services in order to provide more frequent service along a corridor. In the case of the 407 and 430 as well as other similar route pairings, the common segment of the routes are too small, especially compared to the non-common segments, in order to effectively schedule the services in this way. Blending headways in certain circumstances is a great option though! Great to hear you are thinking in this way.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 9, 2013 @ 9:18 am

    Hi Ric, here’s Mary’s response to your questions.

    1) Why can’t the 410 operate on articulated buses during rush hour?
    2) How does the GPS system pick up when to announce the stops and what stop to announce?
    3) Why is it not possible to put all express routes on Highway coaches?
    4) Why aren’t there power outlets on the highway coaches to provide passengers to charge laptops and cell phones?

    Hey Ric!

    With regards to operating Highway coaches on all express routes and articulated busses on the 410, we are limited (especially during peak times) by our fleet. When it comes to our GPS stop announcement system, it is completely automated! It syncs real time GPS data against pre-programmed stop locations and automatically announces stops as the bus approaches. As for power outlets, in the future we will be looking at updating our fleet guidelines, looking at all available possibilities and weighing them against our priorities for providing high quality service.

  • By Xerxes, May 9, 2013 @ 10:17 am

    @Alison You don’t really need to worry about the EM radiation from a Skytrain line, a Skytrain line creates non-ionizing radiation which has not been shown to lead to adverse health effects.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 9, 2013 @ 11:06 am

    Hi Gary! Great questions – here’s Mary’s answers.

    I have several questions for Mary. 1. I ride route 41 almost everyday. The crowding is getting worse. Will service optimization result in more service? Why are the trolley wires not being extended to UBC so that higher utilization of the trolley fleet can occur? In the 2005 Vancouver Area Transit Plan, the idea was to run the 43 all day as a new route 91 B-Line. What has happened to this plan? Does the plan make sense given that many, many riders on the 41 board and get off at non-43 stops? Local riders on the 41 need better service. 2. What are TransLink’s short term plans for the Broadway corridor? It could be years until a subway is built. Will more bus service be added? Can the 9 be converted to an articulated trolley to increase capacity? Something has to be done.

    Hi Gary!

    The 41 is a consistently high performing service that experiences high levels of demand at almost all times of day along the entire route. While we recognize that improvements are warranted on this busy corridor, we are limited at the moment by resources. However, service optimization is an excellent way to reallocate resources to areas of high demand and address issues of chronic overcrowding! Currently, the 43 operates a limited stop service that helps to alleviate a passenger load that would otherwise have to be accommodated by the 41. Part of how we manage the transit network involves looking at how people use the various services available to them, such as those implemented through the Area Transit Plan process, so that we can make adjustments to improve the network.

    The Broadway Corridor is an important regional corridor, and the 99 B-Line is the highest performing route in our system. We saw in the 2011 Bus System Performance Review that heavy passenger loads and overcrowding were not only present during peak times. While service on the 99 B-Line is operating at a maximum capacity under the current infrastructure, we identified an opportunity to improve off-peak service by increasing frequencies.

    In April 2012, TransLink invested significant resources in specific off-peak periods to address overcrowding. We were able to reduce instances of overcrowding during off-peak periods, and saw a 3% increase in annual boardings over 2011.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 9, 2013 @ 11:07 am

    Hi Alison! To add to the info from Xerxes and ???, here’s Mary’s response.

    Hi. I am thinking of buying a house that is situated pretty close to a skytrain line. Are you able to provide any information on levels of electromagnetic fields produced by the lines? Thanks!

    Hello Alison!

    Electric and magnetic fields are invisible lines of force surrounding any conductors or wires that carry electricity and are found everywhere electricity is used. All electrical equipment, including home appliances and transportation equipment, produces EMF. The specific amount of EMF produced by SkyTrain and its impact on the natural and human environment are assessed in the design of the system. The most recent assessment was completed for the Evergreen Line project and contains information about the existing Expo, Millennium and Canada Lines. For more information on the assessment and its findings, please review the backgrounder here.

    Hope that answers your question!

  • By Reva, May 9, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

    Hi Mary,
    I was wondering how the yearly Prov. Govt/disability bus passes will work when the new Compass Card/faregate system comes online mid-year? Will card holders be issued new smartcard-type passes right away? Or will they continue to use the current passes until they expire or until the end of the transition period? Will the new passes look different from a regular Compass card? Just curious. Thanks. :)

  • By Kevin W., May 9, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

    Hi Mary,
    As a regular #25 users, I believe that the demand of the route is actually much higher than what Translink thinks. #25 gets a service reduction after April 12th as Translink always does after U.B.C session ended. However, it turns out the route is still under high demand and it turns horrible with current service level. During peak hours, it is unlikely for people to get on the first bus arrived (except if he or she is at Nanaimo Station), and this happens in both directions. Pass-ups (westbound up to 20-30 people on King Edward between Knight and Cambie) are observed daily and the problem is nowhere being solved. During afternoon peak the route runs every 8-12 minutes, and I just found out that Translink adjusted the schedule so that all eastbound buses departing between 3p.m. to 4 p.m can leave U.B.C. on time. However, the buses are poorly spaced that the eastbound bus after 2:58 is now 3:12 (well…. even though it used to be scheduled at 3:05, it never came on-time). I am glad that Translink realizes the delay problem on the route, even though the route actually delays ALL THE TIME even at weekend midday. Well, it will be better if one more trip can be added between the 2:58 and 3:12 trip (14 minutes frequency is not really acceptable during afternoon peak).
    And also to the bus delaying issue… Some of the most-likely-delayed bus routes in my point of view are the #20, #25 and #106… Heavy traffic is usually what causes the problem, and sometimes it takes almost half an hour to wait for a 6 to 12 minutes frequency route… this commonly takes place on the #20. Is there anyways Translink can cope with these problems and is Translink interested in adding a future Commercial-Victoria corridor B-line when resources and funding become more stable and sufficient?
    Last but not least, has Translink ever considered communicating to PNE in order to add a few PNE special trips according to the demand? It is School PNE day today and the #14 as well as the #16 were extremely crowded. I bet one or two #14 PNE and #16 To Hastings (from 29th Stn) trips will be enough.

  • By Eugene Wong, May 9, 2013 @ 11:23 pm

    I like what Kevin has to say. Non-rush hour crowding is inexcusable. There should be more buses available, and more riders means more funding. It’s ridiculous.

    More highways and non-rush hour crowding are examples of the governments not caring.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 10, 2013 @ 9:03 am

    Eugene: Well, it’s worth remembering that governments are just like any organization, operating with limited resources—so it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care if they can’t currently solve every concern. Crowding certainly is a real issue!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 10, 2013 @ 9:10 am

    Hi Reva! I sent your question on to be answered by the Compass team, and here’s what they’ve provided.

    I was wondering how the yearly Prov. Govt/disability bus passes will work when the new Compass Card/faregate system comes online mid-year? Will card holders be issued new smartcard-type passes right away? Or will they continue to use the current passes until they expire or until the end of the transition period? Will the new passes look different from a regular Compass card? Just curious. Thanks. :)

    There will be a ‘Compass version’ of the BC Bus Pass, and it will be distributed well in advance of the time that the faregates close.

    It will look like this:

    although the information printed on the front of it may be different than this sample. There will be no personal information stored electronically on the card.

    BC Bus Pass holders should continue to use the cards they have now until they receive new cards.

    I should mention that there’s a Compass Card site you can check out for more information!

  • By Bobo, May 10, 2013 @ 9:20 am

    Is Translink ever going to run the 95 B-Line on Hastings? What is the delay? It doesn’t even seem like a major resource issue, because some 135 trips could be converted to create the service. Not perfect, I know, but it seems more efficient. Was this considered as part of service optimization?

    And re: Eugene’s comment, I think the point is they do have resources. They are choosing to spend them on highways instead of transit. Somehow resources always seems to be found for road expansion, but we still get passed up by buses on weekend afternoons!

  • By Ric, May 10, 2013 @ 9:50 am

    Why do the ticket vending machines not accept american bill when the fareboxes on the buses as well as the ticket vending machines can accept american coins?

  • By SS, May 10, 2013 @ 11:57 am

    Nice to hear that TransLink stopped using the #Cx numbers. Many people here dropped the ‘C’ from the route number and refer to the shuttle routes by only the numeric part, and it can get so confusing sometimes. I remembered someone asked me where to take the ’28 going north’ on the #160. I said ‘Kootenay Loop in Vancouver’ while someone said ‘Coquitlam Station’, and I ended up getting a look as if I was trying to trick someone…

    Would the existing shuttle route retain their current numbers? Or if there is a plan to renumber them sometimes in the future?

    Also, I’ve heard that TransLink adopt a new accessibility standard to include down escalators at SkyTrain stations, and all Evergreen Line stations (except for Lafarge Lake due to budget) would have down escalators. Is this true? Would down escalators be added as part of those station upgrade projects at Expo Line stations? And is there a plan to add ‘up’ escalator to Columbia?

  • By Henry Ho, May 10, 2013 @ 11:57 am

    Why can’t all monitors at skytrain station display when will the next train arrive? That’s the only piece of information that we want really. :)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 10, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

    Hello Kevin: here’s Mary’s answers to your questions!

    Hi Kevin!

    Thanks for the question. We’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about the April sheet change. The April sheet change does not directly coincide with UBC school scheduling, but with seasonal changes in travel patterns across the network. Service changes are implemented at set times throughout the year. While demand on some routes may remain high for a few weeks after the sheet change, it is extremely challenging to tailor individual changes. It is important to roll out all service changes across the network at the same time in order to coordinate vehicle allocation, scheduling, operator sign-up and other logistical issues. That being said, we understand that some routes may warrant increased service levels throughout the summer, such as the #25. In fact, to address crowding issues on the #25, in fall of 2011, TransLink increased AM Peak service frequencies to 4 minutes from 5 minutes between Nanaimo and UBC and in April of 2012 permanently increased Saturday service between 8am and 7pm and Sunday/Holiday between 10am and 6pm to 12 minutes from 15.

    For the PNE, while we don’t design the network around special trips, sudden crowding can be addressed operationally on an as-needed basis but is limited by fleet availability and external factors such as traffic conditions. However, if we are informed ahead of time we may be able to put out special service for an event.

    Hope that helps to answer your questions!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 10, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

    Hi ???: Mary has an answer to your questions! Sorry for the delay: I missed the response in my inbox.


    I’ve been studying the #20 for decades and have seen improvements. The old service ran from Marpole to Harrison, via downtown. Severing the Marpole segment has greatly improved reliability.

    In recent years, it’s been explained that the service runs reliably from Pacific Centre until Chinatown. From there the service is pure chaos. There was talk in the past that there was traffic light priority measures for buses…. I’m wondering if this was ever implemented.

    There was also talk about 10yrs during a Vancouver Transit review about about having the #20 only run between Hastings @ Commercial to Harrison return. I like this idea because Hastings is already heavily served and there is also the Expo line for riders interested in downtown. Instead, they short-turned buses at 54th (and 41st when the service got behind). South Van residents got very unreliable service when this occurred. And that leads us to today.

    Thankfully the modern NextBus map identifies bunching on my Blackberry and I use alternative routes (Canada Line) to get home quickly.

    Thanks for the question! TransLink works closely with its operating companies in order to address issues of reliability. Sometimes this involves adjusting schedules, managing headways on-demand, or, in a more long term capacity, investing in infrastructure like transit priority measures. Some transit priority measures such as bus lanes are already implemented throughout the system on high-performing routes like the 99 B-Line. These kind of investments, along with traffic signal priority, require significant resources from municipalities and from TransLink. While we do not currently use traffic signal priority on the #20, we are proud to say that it currently does not experience chronic overcrowding issues, and is consistently one of the highest performing routes in the system with the second highest number of annual boardings! This is quite the accomplishment and we will continue to monitor the reliability of the route to ensure it remains a high quality service.

  • By Sheba, May 10, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

    @Bobo
    Personally I think the 160 and rush hour only 190 should be changed to B-Line. Both of them and the 135 travel from Burrard Station along Hastings until Inlet Dr – then the 135 head up to SFU and the 160 and 190 take Barnet HWY.

    If you look up their schedules you’ll see that the 160 and 190 are already quasi express buses that don’t stop at all the stops, and depending on what direction they’re travelling, it’s only pick-up or drop-off at stops – not both. Changing them to a more standard B-Line would make way more sense than the way it’s set up now.

    @ Henry
    I wish that all the Skytrain stations had the same info shown as the Canada Line does too.

  • By Stefan, May 10, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

    Sheba:

    You make a good suggestion, but it was already tried (sort of), and the 160/190 would have to be beefed up to make it viable.

    For years, the 160 did what it does now (stop for unloading only in Burnaby/Vancouver westbound; loading only eastbound), but due to a mismatch between supply and demand on the 135 a decade ago, the 160 changed to load AND unload at transfer points from Kootenay Loop to Inlet Drive. (The 190, as the lingering legacy of the early 90s, pre-West Coast Express “SuperBus” program, has only ever stopped at a few key transfer points: Commercial; Kootenay Loop; Willingdon–and for Tri-Cities passengers only.)

    The problem was that there were so many Burnaby passengers boarding the eastbound bus in Vancouver, that service deteriorated for Tri-Cities passengers. So when more vehicles became available a couple of years ago to serve the 135, the 160 reverted to its old stopping arrangements.

    With the 160 only operating on 30-minute headways outside of peak hours (and mainly 40-foot buses on weekdays), it wouldn’t work as a B-Line in its current state. It would have to get more 60-foot buses, and on at least double the current headway.

    Of course, once the Evergreen Line comes online, with excess vehicles from the 97 and 160 routes, maybe the Hastings B-Line will finally happen! Better yet, they should string wires all the way to SFU and bring back the Hastings Express…but alas, that is probably too much of a dream.

  • By Eugene Wong, May 11, 2013 @ 6:23 am

    @ Translink

    Bobo is right. I don’t understand how you managed to find money to build more highways. Yes, I know that you couldn’t resist taking advantage of the offer by the feds, but you promote it as if there are no opportunity costs.

    “Well, we had this money, and we all ready refused to use it for transit under any circumstance. We would rather die than let that happen. It would have been such a waste to just burn it, so when the feds came around throwing money at people, we decided to build a highway as part of our Go Green program!”

    While I quickly admit that Translink has great feelings about making good transit, I don’t think that you really deserve the opportunity to claim that you care. You’ve built elevators. You’ve installed machines that will cost more than they bring in, and that will slow down service, causing missed connections. You’ve built highways.

    * * * * * * * *

    “Go green! Continual car usage is unsustainable, and we will build a new highway this coming fall, and while we’re at it, we will give raises to the board of directors!”

    Did anybody notice that the second sentence wasn’t even finished, and they were all ready trying to spend more money?

    * * *

    Wear and tear! Wear and tear!
    We can’t do what’s best, and what you want, due to wear and tear!
    Proved me wrong?!?
    Too bad! Now we won’t do it due to budget limitations!

    Budget limitations! Budget limitations!
    We can’t do what’s best, and what you want, due to budget limitations!
    Proved me wrong?!?
    Too bad! Now we won’t do it due to union rules!

    Union rules! Union rules!
    We can’t do what’s best, and what you want, due to union rules!
    Proved me wrong?!?
    Too bad! Now we won’t do it due to…hmm…too much money from the feds!

    Too much money from the feds! Too much money from the feds!
    We can’t do what’s best, and what you want, due to too much money from the feds!
    Proved me wrong?!?
    Too bad! Now we won’t do it due to…due to…hmm…we don’t care!

    We don’t care! We don’t care! [repeat until music fades]

  • By Rachel Fournier, May 13, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

    Hi Mary, I have couple questions. I would like to know if you’ve ever had any complaints about the lack of Bus routes in South Surrey.
    If so, is Translink planning on improving the bus routes that travel through or to Surrey? The #531, for example, goes a VERY long way without stopping on its trip from White Rock Center to Willowbrook, as it lacks bus stops on its route. Has this route, or any other South Surrey bus route, ever been complained about?

    Thank you for your time!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, May 15, 2013 @ 9:35 am

    Eep – SS, I had an answer from Mary for you in my inbox and missed putting it up until now! Here it is:

    Hi again SS!

    The exact details of how and when we will transition away from the current #CX numbers is still being confirmed. As for the Evergreen Line, that is a bit outside my area of expertise, so I am waiting to hear back to verify an answer for you! While there are no new accessibility standards as you mentioned in your question, TransLink has put together a new Transit Passenger Facilities Design Guideline report that provides a detailed framework for designing and developing transit stations, exchanges and stops. You can read more about it here under the Guidelines tab.

    I can tell you that we have committed to installing down escalators, with numbers and design depending on station layout, as part of the Expo Line Upgrade Strategy. We have also looked into installing an up escalator at Columbia to help facilitate passenger flow within the station, however we are currently limited by funding and therefore do not have a plan in place at this time to implement one.

    Thanks for the questions!
    Mary

  • By Mr. Green, June 20, 2013 @ 8:44 am

    I’m going “green” in my own way for myself and extended family. My bro-in-law has the only AC Propulsion eBox in Canada (180kw electric). I’ve installed solar hot water evacuated tubes on my home. I’m about to install the first half of 5kw gridtie solar electric in the next couple of weeks. After 10kw on my main roof my workshop will get 3.5kw of panels. I’ve made over 7000L of biodiesel myself over the last 3 years… where you guys don’t get a single penny of my taxes. Now you are talking about tolls for rush hour drivers because you are short money. I’m sorry, stop paying your bodywork/painters $40/hr to sleep on a bus. Full size buses late at night with 1 passenger. Makes sense?? There are so many inefficiencies in translink it boggles the mind. Biggest problem is an unelected board. You’d all be on the street jobless if you had been elected. It’s the same as healthcare. Doesn’t matter how many billions of $ we throw down the black hole it won’t solve anything until we change the paradigm.

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  1. The Buzzer blog » Ask TransLink: transit planner Mary Riemer talks bus bunching, route numbers, inspirational cities, and more! — May 10, 2013 @ 11:15 am

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